Leaders from President Obama to Warren Buffett have stressed the need to educate more American students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields in order to keep America competitive in the global economy.
On Friday afternoon, Bergen Community College hosted its first annual Teen STEM Day to offer Northern New Jersey high school students the opportunity to learn about different career paths.
More than 30 students from Verona High School were in attendance.
"Dr. Nicole Santora, our district Science and Math supervisor was instrumental getting this program off the ground," said Verona Superintendent Steven Forte.
Santora attended as a chaperone and helped students pick and sign up for three or four workshops based on their interests. The day was set up very similar to a typical college experience, she said.
"I think it was important for students to learn how the STEM topics that interest them are applied in careers as well as higher education," said Santora. "These workshops provided the students with the ability to experience a variety of STEM related studies to help them in deciding their future courses of study."
The day-long conference had students attend hands-on workshops which demonstrated how industries use science, technology, engineering and math to answer the needs and demands of daily living.
Santora said some of the highlights of the day was a helicopter and airplane simulator, a lecture with live lizards, snakes and turtles, using programming to move a robot and creating 3-D games.
"Having this conference shows the excellence in STEM subjects that has made American a leader," Dr. Judith Fitzpatrick of Bergen Community College said. Fitzpatrick is the college's Director of Quality Assurance Program in the Division of Math, Science and Technology. "We encourage you to follow and at least explore STEM courses during college. A lot of the time, people stay away from STEM as they think it's only for really smart people. STEM takes hard work, but it's more about working smart and hard because you will need to study more."
According to Fitzpatrick, students who graduate with a STEM degree are more likely to secure employment following graduation and will earn 25% more than their peers with a non-STEM degree.
The conference was co-organized between the college and the Teen STEM Day advisory board. Among the board's founding members are River Dell educators Dr. Chin Chu (chemistry), Dr. Edward Houston (physics/robotics) and Carrie Jacobus (chemistry), Hackensack's Ronald Durso (biology), Dwight Morrow's John Jasinski (technology), Bergenfield's Asst. Principal Rob Ragasa, Hasbrouck Heights Superintendent Dr. Mark Porto, Laurie Francis of the BCC Foundation and Fitzpatrick.
"You are tomorrow's chemists, biologists, physical scientists, engineers and healthcare professionals," Porto said. "But it doesn't matter what you major in. You much be able to think, speak and read clearly to be successful. Math and science only matter as well as you speak or read."
Students from Bergenfield, River Dell, Hasbrouck Heights, Hackensack, Cliffside Park, New Milford, Verona, Fair Lawn, Saddle Brook and the Academies at Dwight Morrow Englewood were able to choose from over thirty seminars.
The high schoolers were able to pilot the college's state of the art flight simulators, handle snakes or learn how to prepare for a vetinary career, learn from professionals from Triangle Manufacturing and Stryker Orthopedics, develop their own computer game, design a building, operate a solar collector, or program a robot to detect objects in their environment and perform simple tasks.